Marlene Jennings, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation
Publish date: 18 Nov 02
NOTES FOR REMARKS
PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE
MINISTER FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
South Asia Partnership’s Forum
Women and Leadership: Voices for Security and Development
November 28, 2002
v. 27-11 13:05
Good morning. J’aimerais commencer en saluant son Excellence L’Honourable Jalil Jamily, Ambassador d’Afghanistan au Canada, ainsi que tous les invités de marque et conférenciers éminents que la Société asiatique des partenaires — ou la SAP — a réunis ici aujourd’hui.
The important issues surrounding gender and security deserve our attention, and it is a great pleasure to be here with you to discuss them.
The Canadian International Development Agency, or CIDA, has long been working on peacebuilding, gender equality, and increasing women’s participation in the decisions that affect their lives, including decisions related to governance and peace processes around the world.
We are committed to continuing this essential work.
Le mandat général de l’ACDI est d’appuyer les activités de développement durable en vue de réduire la pauvreté et de contribuer à créer un monde plus sûr, plus juste et plus prospère.
We want to help ensure that every woman, man, and child, no matter where they are born, has the opportunity to reach their full human potential. We have seen, again and again, how conflict hinders development, and even reverses gains that have been made. So peace is a prerequisite for truly sustainable development.
War, like all violence, is not gender-neutral. It affects women and men differently. Conflict often alters the roles of men and women both within the family and within society.
Through CIDA’s Child Protection Research Fund, we have supported a project looking at the situation of girls in military and paramilitary organizations.
Although there is a tendency to think of girls as passive victims, girls have also been combattants, intelligence officers, spies, porters, cooks, as well as “wives” and victims.
Peacebuilding also has many gender dimensions.
Unfortunately, peace negotiations are only beginning to include women.
The end of hostilities may also bring particular disadvantages for women. Peacekeepers and investigators who are untrained in gender sensitivity or human rights may overlook women’s needs, and can even be abusive on several levels, including sexually.
We know that disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation programs have not taken the multiple roles of female combattants into account; and our study shows that girls and women have rarely benefited from these activities.
Demobilization of forces may mean that women who stayed in the community may lose any gains they might have made during the absence of so many men.
And in elections or the design and provision of international aid for reconstruction, there can be an underrepresentation or misunderstanding of women’s needs.
Happily, in recent years, we have seen some promising trends develop in the area of gender and security. There has been a growing awareness at an international level that women can and do play special roles as facilitators in dialogue, peace negotiations, reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Last year’s G8 Strategy on Conflict Prevention takes account of the role women play in all aspects of conflict resolution and peacebuilding, and also encourages the consideration of the specific needs of female ex-combatants, the provision of gender-sensitivity training for participants in peace-related operations, and encourages the appointment of more women to peace-related posts.
One of the biggest steps forward was Resolution 1325 of October 2000, in which the links between gender equality and global security are recognized for the first time by the United Nations Security Council. Resolution 1325 called for:
– the prosecution of crimes against women,
– increased protection of women and girls during war,
– the appointment of more women to UN peacekeeping operations and field missions,
– and more women in decision-making positions at all levels.
Canada has long taken a leadership role on the international stage in both gender equality, and peacekeeping, and played a key role I’m proud to say, in making Resolution 1325 a reality.
Since the Resolution, Canada has continued this important work.
Right now, for example, CIDA is providing support towards strengthening the Afghani Ministry of Women’s Affairs, support to local Afghan women’s groups, and other initiatives working towards gender equality in that country.
In other work, we are also helping to strengthen the roles and capacities of women in Nepal to contribute to sustainable peace, through greater participation in peace and conflict resolution processes.
We head the Friends of 1325 group, a small group of like-minded countries which wants to keep these issues on the UN agenda.
A Canadian, Sandra Whitworth of York University, was one of the three writers of the recently released Secretary General’s study on Women, Peace and Security.
Through our work in South Asia and many other parts of the world, there are some lessons that we’ve learned about trying to support gender equality in peacebuilding.
First, as in so many things in life, timing is key. Building on momentum is important to maximize impact.
Second, women’s participation in formal peace negotiations often faces strong opposition; but international political support and additional resources can support women’s efforts to become accepted in formal peace processes.
Unfortunately, as meetings with Dr. Sima Samar, a renowned women’s rights activist from Afghanistan, have forcibly reminded us, external support is not always enough to overcome the internal barriers against women’s participation in some countries.
Another important lesson is about facilitating participation, once you do have women involved. Just because there are equal numbers of men and women in a room does not mean that their participation will be equitable.
There is always the question of security of voice: is this a space where women feel safe to speak in public? Therefore, we need to be both careful and creative in promoting women’s participation.
In post-conflict situations, there is nothing that is “not political”, particularly where gender issues are involved.
Finally, the capacity of marginalized people, especially women, to participate and take the lead in peacebuilding initiatives is influenced by a variety of factors. For example, health and literacy may seem external to the immediate concern of peacebuilding; but they have a direct impact on both men and women’s ability to participate meaningfully.
All of these areas are connected, and complex; and it takes more than government, more than non-governmental organizations, more than the private sector to make a lasting difference.
That is why I’m proud that CIDA supports the work of South Asia Partnership and its member organizations. CIDA and SAP Canada have enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship.
This organization has been particularly helpful in promoting development interests in Canada. CIDA has also supported SAP as a regional partner in South Asia. Its unique niche in facilitating regional networking and collaboration is very valuable in regions where mutual understanding and communication can be key to preventing conflict.
South Asia is one of the most strife-torn and militarized regions of the world.
What underlies and feeds this strife is the unacceptable levels of poverty, deprivation and inequality. CIDA is working in this region on a number of fronts, including education, the fight against HIV/AIDS, strengthening democracy and human rights, and promoting gender equality.
We recently announced a $2 million contribution to help the peace process in Sri Lanka, and we have been supporting Afghanistan in its rebuilding and reconstruction efforts.
In fact, I am happy to announce today that Canada, through CIDA, will contribute $115,000 over the next year to the Afghan Women’s Organization based in Toronto, to help strengthen the leadership and management skills of Afghan women.
Canadians have valuable expertise in so many areas to offer to our developing country partners. The diversity of Canadians is one of our great strengths in the world.
Our ties with other countries are often personal ones. And the fact that we have, in Canada, a country where all people can live together in peace, speaking different languages, practising different religions, belonging to different ethnic groups and living different lifestyles means that we have valuable experience in building a culture of peace and diversity that we can share.
The work, at home, and abroad, towards peace and gender equality isn’t over. Let’s keep up the momentum.
I wish you the best in your discussions over the next two days.